Biden pick to head employee benefits agency approved by U.S. Senate

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
  • Lisa Gomez was confirmed after Senate initially rejected her
  • Gomez to head Labor Dept. office overseeing retirement, health plans

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Joe Biden's nominee to head the U.S. Department of Labor office that regulates employee benefit plans, a few months after lawmakers initially rejected her nomination.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 49-36 along party lines to confirm Lisa Gomez, a partner at Cohen Weiss & Simon in New York, to lead DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

In June, the Senate had voted down the nomination of Gomez by Biden, a Democrat, 51-49.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, had voted to confirm Gomez but changed his vote when it became apparent that the Senate was headed toward a 50-50 split. That allowed Schumer to file a motion for reconsideration that paved the way for Thursday's vote.

Gomez, who joined Cohen, Weiss & Simon in 1994, represents employee benefits plans, including those administered by employers and unions and has represented unions in litigation involving worker benefits.

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the White House and DOL.

Gomez had faced little opposition and was not asked pointed questions during a Senate hearing in October 2021.

But EBSA drew criticism from Republicans after unveiling a proposal last year that would require retirement plan fiduciaries to consider environmental, social and corporate governance issues when deciding whether to invest in companies.

The Senate in March had rejected Biden's nominee to lead DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which enforces federal wage laws.

The nominee, David Weil, headed the office during the Obama administration and drew criticism from business groups for aggressively policing companies' classification of workers as independent contractors, who are not protected by laws covering employees such as minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Biden in July nominated Jessica Looman, a former trade union official who is currently the deputy administrator of WHD, for the post.

Read more:

Senate rejects Biden nominee Weil for DOL unit chief

Biden nominates lawyer to oversee retirement plans, worker benefits

U.S. Senate rejects another Biden nominee for labor post

Biden taps former union official to lead Labor Dept. wage unit

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.